Coronavirus shielding and vaccination
Under the NHS guidelines, spinal cord injured people should be considered as a vaccination priority. People who have higher level injuries, a suppressed immune system or respiratory issues should be in Group Four whilst all other SCI people should be in Group Six. However, we are aware that there is a lot of confusion amongst both injured people themselves and healthcare professionals, especially GPs about the need and priority to be given to SCI people and very much want to offer some clear guidance.
Spinal Injuries Association has been working with the NHS since the start of the pandemic to ensure that the unique needs of SCI people were both understood and reflected in COVID19 planning. And of course this has extended into vaccination planning. We know that work urgently continues across the NHS as they undertake the country’s biggest peacetime logistical exercise. We are confident that the policy is broadly sound, but are working hard to ensure that the implementation of the vaccine programme appropriately prioritises SCI people. This is especially the case with GPs who would likely have few SCI patients and therefore lack understanding of the unique needs of SCI people. We want to share with healthcare professionals, and especially GPs, the published criteria.
Many people with a spinal cord injury whose age does not place them in a higher group should be prioritised into Group Four – All those 70 years of age and/or clinically extremely vulnerable. The SCI cohort who should be considered clinically extremely vulnerable should include those with:
1.Tetraplegia or high-level paraplegia (T8 and above)
Rationale: Those with high level SCI including those with tetraplegia and high-level paraplegia will have compromised respiratory function resulting in a weakened cough reflex. SCI people in this group who contract COVID-19 are more likely to require acute care, as the consequences of this virus on an already compromised respiratory function could prove critical.
2. A compromised immune system
Rationale: Those who acquired SCI through an autoimmune condition i.e Transverse Myelitis, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Metastatic Spinal Cord Compression or Spinal Tumour, may have an impaired or compromised immune system and therefore be at greater risk of serious infection.
All other SCI people should be categorised in Group Six – An underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of disease or mortality for the vaccine.
Additional health risks for all SCI people
Rationale: For those with SCI any illness, particularly those that lead to hospitalisation can risk the emergence of a variety of other complications related to bowel, bladder, and skin along with the increased risk of opportunistic infections.
We’re working with NHS England on this issue, and encouraging them to send better and more specific guidance to GPs. But, critically, we want SCI people to contact their GP to seek a clear assurance that their medical records are accurate and that they are listed as either group four or group six. We’ve produced a letter – to help with this. Please persevere. It may take a couple of attempts to get past the reception service or automated reply, and we know that GP surgeries are very busy at the moment, but do keep trying; it’s not about jumping the queue, but instead it is the urgent need to ensure that SCI people can get the vaccine in line with their clinical need.
Please remember that we are here for every SCI person. Our support line (0800 980 0501) is open Monday to Friday from 9am till 5pm and we can also be contacted via email on [email protected]
For more information download our information sheet on the Coronavirus Vaccine.